The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Moslems, opened a $7 million hotel on the island of Zanzibar at the weekend -- an investment welcomed by Tanzania as a boost to its tourist trade.
The 52-room hotel, in a historic seafront building which once housed the British consulate when Zanzibar was ruled by an Arab sultan, is the latest project of the Aga Khan's Serena group, which has built a chain of hotels in East Africa.
Speaking at the opening ceremony on Saturday, President Benjamin Mkapa said tourism was Tanzania's top foreign exchange earner, providing jobs for more than 30,000 people. From last year's total of 326,000, Tanzania hoped to attract 500,000 tourists by the year 2000. The Serena group's investments in Tanzania, totalling nearly $40 million, demonstrated confidence in the country's political stability, the president said.
The Aga Khan, concluding an East African tour which has already taken him to Uganda, Kenya and mainland Tanzania, also visited historic buildings in Zanzibar's Stone Town which are being renovated by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. Stone Town, named for its Arab-style buildings from the period of Arab rule which ended in a revolution in 1964, has attracted international support for a programme of renovation after years of neglect. An independent state until the 1964 revolution, Zanzibar then joined with mainland Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania. But Zanzibar retains a semi-autonomous status within Tanzania, with its own president and parliament. Zanzibar President Salmin Amour was also present at Saturday's hotel opening.
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